I signed up to do an ebook tour last December. They warned me that preparing for would be a lot of work - they were kidding either.  Writing guest blogs and answering interview questions is very time-consuming, but it's also a lot of fun. This is my first interview. I had a great time answering Christine Young's questions. 

Ebook tour Interview
1st Stop.
March 19, 2018

1. What or who inspired you to start writing?
Hmm. That’s a good question. I was fortunate enough to marry the love of my life. He listened to my stories and encouraged me to write them. When the time was right, my husband gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer. I couldn’t publish A Maiden’s Honor without my husband’s unwavering support.

However, it was my characters that inspired me to write. Each one came to me in the most unexpected way. They tapped on my thoughts and told me about their lives. Some characters were more insistent than others, and some were so insistent that I couldn't shut them up. So I got quiet and listened, and one day, I began writing their stories. I hope I will have the opportunity to share their journeys with the world.

2. How did you come up with ideas for your books?
My stories come from the darnest places. The seeds for many were born from other stories that I either loved or hated, (i.e., I loved the story and the characters, but hated the ending enough to want to rewrite it to my satisfaction. From that process, my characters and stories were born.

3. What expertise did you bring to your writing?
I’m a historian first. (That's a requirement for my genre.) I love diving into a particular period of history. I'm not as much concerned with dates or specific events. (Of course, having a solid knowledge of both is mandatory for developing a believable historical fiction story.) I’m more intrigued with learning about the people who lived during that era. Who were they? How did they live? What challenges did they face?  Could they overcome them? And if they were successful, how did they rise above their circumstances? 

My readers can be assured that I will fully research every aspect of my stories. I would like to think that every detail that I add to my stories is historically accurate, and my characters reflect the attitudes of the times. At least that's what I strive to accomplish. 

4. What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?
I spent spending three months in Argentina during my senior year. My college offered abroad trips to Europe and other interesting places. I decided to go to Argentina because I believed it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

This trip became an adventure which began on my flight to Miami. For some reason, I needed to make a last minute plane change on my way to Miami. (I had also lost my claim checks. Groan.)  I landed in Buenos Aires with only the clothes on my back. (I wasn’t too upset because I only brought clothes that didn’t matter to me. My address book was the only thing that I hated losing.)  I spent the summer working several jobs at my college to earn spending money for my trip. Our hotel was in the center of the shopping district. You can imagine my delight as I relished the prospect of shopping for a new wardrobe. Sadly, my luggage arrived the next day. I still bought a lot on this trip.

My time in Argentina meant the world to me. The people in our group were very diverse, and yet we became a close knit family by the end of our journey. We also learned a lot about the culture and made some wonderful new friends. We visited cool places like Uruguay, Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, and Tierra del Fuego. Did I mention the beef? There’s a reason beef connoisseurs tout that Argentina has the best steak in the world. I agree. Ironically, the only thing I wanted when I got home was a McDonald’s cheeseburger. That was the place I visited after my mom picked me up from the airport. I still miss the Argentine filet mignon!

5. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?
Oh man, I have enough stories to keep me busy writing for the rest of my life. Storytelling is my passion, (or is it my obsession)? If I have my way, I will continue sharing my stories for as long as I can.

6. If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
Sarah Campbell, most definitely Sarah Campbell. She's the kind of person I aspire to be. She's kind, curious, fearless, and determined. She also accepts people for who they are.

I love the complexity of Sarah's character. On the surface, she's the kind of person that readers and fellow characters continuously underestimate. People believe that she's dim-witted because she doesn't speak English very well, yet she's anything but stupid. Sarah faces many severe challenges throughout the entire series. There are times where she wants to give up, and yet she finds a way to survive and overcome every obstacle that's thrown at her.

7. If you were the casting director for the film version of your novel, who would play your leading roles?
One of my favorite parts of this project was casting my characters. Finding faces and voices made my characters come alive. For some reason, I had a heck of a time casting my protagonists, Sarah Campbell and Hassan Aziz.  Sarah was a particularly challenging character to cast. She has long burgundy hair and royal blue eyes. The only character that came to mind was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I finally found the perfect Sarah after watching Gemma Atherton in the Prince of Persia. Now I can’t imagine anyone else.

Finding my perfect Hassan Aziz was equally challenging. He is your typical historical romance hero, tall, dark, and handsome, but finding his face wasn't as easy as it sounds. Then I saw Troy, and I knew that Eric Bana would make an ideal Hassan.

8. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?
I belonged to a critique group for many, many years. I love the members. We had each genre well represented. Between the six of us, we wrote thrillers, romances, general fiction, woman's fiction, and fantasy. I wrote historical fiction/romance. Each is a brilliant writer and storyteller. The best part about this group was that we supported each other's writing efforts. I spent much of my allotted time telling them about my stories. Instead of criticizing me for not having something prepared, they encouraged me to write my stories when I was ready. I eventually did, and I'm so grateful for their support and gentle critiques. They helped me to become the writer I am today. Sadly, we've all gone our separate ways. I stay in touch with a few of them, and they continue to support me.

9. When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?
I had been working on The Woman from Eden Series for over ten years. I spent most of that time writing and rewriting without making any significant progress. I met my publisher through my mom, who is a children's author. My story fascinated my publisher, and he offered to publish it as a trilogy. I know I could have gone the traditional route, writing countless letters to agents. I decided to sign with this publisher because I needed someone to force hard deadlines on me to finish writing my story. My original book was 1500 pages long. My publisher insisted on turning it into a trilogy. It took some effort to morph the first part of my book into the book I just published. I'm not sure that I would have ever finished A Maiden's Honor had I not signed with my publisher.

10. What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)
I once asked my Facebook author friends what advice they had for a new author like me. An overwhelming number of them said that the secret to their success is to write more books. The more books you have to sell, the more money you can make. I have a lot of work to do. Networking on social media is also very important.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I do a little of both. My stories unfold in my mind like a movie that replays over and over again until I've finished the last scene. The planner in me takes the time to write an outline. However, sometimes the best scenes come from letting my characters be themselves.

Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you've gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books?
I can’t see my characters scuba diving or doing Tai Kwan Do. Although, I think Sarah and Cora would enjoy learning how to do them.

However, my husband and I love to travel. I've been fortunate to have traveled to some of the locations where my stories take place. Seeing the places that I write about helped me to envision the scenes in my novels. My husband and I visited the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain and the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on two separate trips. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit the Algerian Palace while I researched A Maiden's Honor. Having excess to the pictures of this Palace through the internet was helpful, but my Palace didn't come alive until I visited the Alhambra and the Topkapi Palace. I also learned a lot about harems during my tour of the Topkapi Palace, and many of those insights ended up in my book.

I also had the privilege of visiting the South Pacific. I spent several years researching the Polynesian culture. I learned a lot about their history and their people, but the Polynesians didn't become real to me until I had met them.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?
That would have to be To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the story, the characters, and the writing. I also have a soft spot for The Three Musketeers. D'Artagnan will always be one of my all-time favorite characters.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?
I'm currently working on the sequel to A Maiden's Honor. This book picks up where A Maiden Honor left off. I won't give any spoilers, except to say it’s the ultimate fish out of water story, except this determined little fish (Sarah) learns to breathe air.

Who is your favorite actor and actress?
Honestly, I have the most profound respect for Steve Buscemi. He has played a lot of fun and interesting characters over the years. I especially loved him in Desperado, specifically the opening scene where he goes into a seedy bar and tells the bartender and patrons a wild story about his friend. (Sadly, that’s the only part of the movie I liked.)

I also admire this actor because he's a genuinely decent person. I discovered several years ago that Steve Buscemi was a New York firefighter before he became an actor. He was at the height of his career when 9/11 happened. While most celebrities raised money for the victims, (and that was commendable), Steve Buscemi returned to his former precinct to help his fellow firefighters look for survivors in the rubble.  He’s a hero in my book.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
Spoiler alert! Proceed to the next question if you don't want to read my spoiler, but by all means, keep reading if you’re curious.

I wrote A Maiden's Honor much like a thesis. I asked and answered the following questions, "Who are these legendary South Seas Maidens? Are they merely sexual fantasies, or is there more to them? I also addressed the Western perceptions about these women.

Hassan’s friend, Peter, represents the Western point of view towards the South Seas maidens. Peter tells Hassan that the Polynesian women are incapable of being faithful to one man. Of course, Hassan is drawn to Sarah. He spends the entire story grappling with his feelings for her and his fears warning him not to trust her.

Likewise, Sarah struggles with the frustration of having to prove her love to a man who questions her honor when it's challenged. This conflict climaxes when Hassan fears that he had lost her for good.

What is your favorite reality show?
Does the Curse of Oak Island count? If so, I choose this one. Ok, it’s another treasure hunting show where the searchers spend countless time and money on a project for which they get little in return. To date, they’ve found a really old cross (which is very cool by the way), a gold coin, other old coins, buttons, broken pottery, and a few other artifacts. Anyone who watches the show can’t help pulling for these guys. I love the camaraderie between the two brothers and the others involved in this project. It’s blatantly clear that they genuinely care about each other. That’s refreshing to see, opposed to so many of the other reality series that pit alpha personalities against each other. To my amazement and delight, these treasure hunters continue to uncover pieces of this puzzle. I and the other millions of other fans hope they discover the motherload without needing a seventh person to die before the island will reveal its secrets.   

Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to write a series?
I love my Woman from Eden Series. I always will, but sometimes I feel like this story will never end.  In my defense, I've been working on this series for a long time. It took a lot out of me to write and publish A Maiden's Honor. Readers need not worry. I will finish writing the series. I’ve heard from many readers that they are anxious to find out what happens next in Sarah’s journey.  Still, there's a part of me that's anxious to tell my other stories.

Anything else you might want to add?
Thanks for interviewing me. I had a great time answering your questions!

Click here if you would like to read the full interview:  Thanks Christine Young for hosting, and Goddess Fish for setting this up.  

Back to answering more interview qustions!

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